My name is Armando Zaragoza and I currently serve as the chapter president for CSU San Marcos’ Active Minds Chapter, and over the past year my fellow Active Minds ambassador and Vice President, Becky Calica, and I had the pleasure of facilitating an event that focused on mental health challenges within marginalized communities, specifically the Male Latinx community.
Because we were looking at a specific community, we had to collaborate with mental health professionals and members within the target community, to ensure our program was both effective and appropriate. To get started, we looked toward our Cross Cultural Center and Latin@ Center, who were an absolute pleasure to collaborate with and were excited to hear about the project’s intentions. They answered our questions about the perceived challenges the Latinx community faced in terms of mental health and the most efficient way to address these challenges. The Latin@ Center and Cross Cultural Center also helped us connect with various culturally-based campus organizations who supplemented this information. One of their most helpful tips was to encourage conversation and participation because the expert on your own mental health experiences is, well, you! We also were graced with the guidance of our campus’ Mental Health Educator and CSUSM Active Minds faculty advisor, Cheryl Berry. She provided a wealth of knowledge about mental health and worked closely with the faculty in Student Health and Counseling to provide a comprehensive and well-rounded experience for participants.
The program we came up with focused on the importance of cultural competence when dealing with something as complex as mental health. This event came about from an observation we made, which is that very often we do not examine mental health through a cultural lens because it is so universal, and this was the issue we wanted to address. After gathering all the background we could from the different resources on campus, we came up with the idea to create a panel discussion that examined mental health from a Latinx cultural perspective. We asked three Latinx individuals to come and speak about their experiences with mental health and how their culture has influenced their views today. The panel consisted of a professor from our campus Human Development Department, a counselor from our Student Health and Counseling Services and myself our chapter’s Active Minds President. They answered a variety of questions and provided their experiences to an audience of over 20 students and what we saw were students who were engaged and genuinely interested in what our panelists had to say. Overall, it was a positive and enriching experience to see the CSUSM community work together to establish an awareness of mental health and challenges in the Latinx community, and it was amazing to hear so many students express that they felt a lot more informed after having attended this event.
Overall, I really enjoyed working on this project and seeing how we can further develop conversations around mental health on our campus. Serving as the Active Minds President for my chapter has been an honor and this has been one of my favorite aspects of my presidency, not because I can continue my advocacy, but because I was able to connect with students through my experience. Out of all the events we have held this year this event by far has served as one of our most successful events and I could not have done it without my co-ambassador, Becky Calica, our advisor Cheryl Berry, Becky Fein from Active Minds, and all of our other partners. I hope to continue using events like this one to continue to spread awareness about mental health on my campus and within my local community.
A note from Becky: I have been an advocate for a change in the conversation about mental health for about two years. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the panel room full of people, eating tacos, and listening to our panelists that I really understood why this is such an important conversation and my sense of unity with the mental health and CSUSM community grew deeper. There were people from all walks of life, those who previously knew about the event, and those who just came in for tacos in exchange for their attention. The event received overwhelmingly positive reviews and it seemed as though it really hit home with some of our audience members. It was such an incredible feeling to know that this event had a positive impact on our community and to experience such insights myself.